6 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home Improvement Contractor

When starting a home improvement or remodeling project you want to be sure you are hiring the right person for the job. It is a good idea to ask some basic questions of the home improvement contractors you are interviewing for the job before you sign an agreement. Here is a guide to 6 questions to ask when choosing a home improvement contractor.

1. Are you and your subcontractors licensed to perform the work in my state?

Many states have strict licensing requirements for home improvement contractors and their associated sub-trades, such as plumbers, electricians, and HVAC system installers. If the contractor is not licensed, he or she may ask that you file the paperwork for the zoning and building permits, leaving you vulnerable to any work that is not in conformance with the local codes.

2. What insurance policies do you carry?

The most common and important insurance coverages are general liability and worker’s compensation.

General liability protects you from damage caused by the contractor or his workers and any damage that might occur to his automobile, tools, and materials that are onsite. Worker’s compensation is necessary in case the contractor or his employees get injured while working on the job.

Ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance for both policies with coverage amounts listed.

3. Can you give me 3 references for similar projects?

A good home improvement contractor should be able to come up with at least 3 solid references for you to contact. Ask for names, phone numbers, and email addresses of clients so that you can contact them.

A financial reference is also a good thing to check out. Does the contractor have an account in good standing with a local supply house?

4. What is your anticipated time frame from start to finish?

It is always best to get a schedule in writing. While delays do happen, due to materials shortages or inclement weather, an approximate time frame will give you some peace of mind that there is an end in sight.

5. Who will pay for dumpsters and temporary facilities?

Most remodeling work requires either dumpster or hauling fees. The contractor should be the one handling removal of demolished items and material waste. There is nothing worse for you and your neighbors than a pile of debris sitting in your driveway. Make sure he intends to clear the mess away on a regular basis.

Unless you don’t mind the workers using your powder room, ask the contractor to have a sanitary toilet placed in a discreet location on the property and ask that it be emptied and cleaned regularly.

6. How will we handle any changes to the contracted work?

Almost every home improvement project has some unforeseen conditions that could result in the need for additional materials and labor. This will cost you, so be prepared financially with a contingency plan before signing the contract.

The best way to handle changes is to have in place a system whereby the contractor presents the situation to you in the form of a change order with the cost of time and materials clearly spelled out that you can approve in writing before he actually does the work.


Starting a home improvement project is exciting, but only if you take the time to vet your contractor and his or her subcontractors. Do not be intimidated by the process. You are the boss when it comes to protecting your assets. A reputable home improvement contractor will not be surprised by you asking these well-thought-out questions.